Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Dentist Visited – Korean Style

After lunch today, I began to feel a strange soreness in my mouth.  I had a root canal several years ago (like 30!) and my dentist back in the states told me this condition might rear its ugly head one day.  So, after lunch, we went dentist hunting.  And they are in season, so to speak.

Our search began at 1:00.  Walking around the streets of Seoul, we saw several signs for dentists.  We visited a couple of practices, but everyone was out to lunch.  I guess all Seoulites eat lunch around 1:00PM.  Instead of waiting around, my wife suggested we visit the dental office in our building.  That turned out to be wonderful advice.

At 2:00PM I walked into Dr. Kim’s office and was happily greeted by the good doctor himself.  I briefly explained my discomfort, and he told to have a seat and that he’d be right with me.  He wasn’t kidding.  I barely got my jacket and scarf off when we began leading me back for an examination.  He, along with the help of his cheerful assistant, sat me down in his fancy dental chair and leaned me back.  After a few moments of probing and questioning, he decided I needed an x-ray.  He walked me to his x-ray room, and after a few zaps, I was back in the chair.
While he waited for the film to develop, we began chatting about America (Koreans are always interested in where you lived in the states) and the recent presidential election (Korea elected their first female president yesterday).  After 2-3 minutes, and with film in hand, he explained the cause of my discomfort and suggested I make an appointment for minor surgery.  I told him we were planning to travel to Thailand in a few days.  He assured me the surgery could wait and prescribed some drugs (I don’t really know what they are) for inflammation and the pain, along with an antibiotic.
He didn’t charge me a dime for the visit or x-ray, and I paid less than $10 for the drugs.  I made an appointment for the surgery, which he estimated would cost around $100.  I was stunned.  I looked at my wife and we both were stunned.  No waiting, superior customer service, a free visit, and cheap drugs.   



  1. Of course South Korea has universal medical and dental care, paid for with taxes, right?

  2. Yes, I believe they do. But since I'm a non-citizen, I don't believe the dentist was remunerated (by the gov't) for my visit. All the information I gave was my name. I'm unsure how he would prove he treated me.

    Clearly, treating me was his highest priority, not receiving payment. It truly was a charitable act.

  3. Well, that's pretty cool then. Maybe it's a character issue.

  4. The Korean emphasis on service is unmistakable. It's such a contrast to American style service, or lack thereof.

  5. Here's something that'll blow your socks off: American service (at for-profit establishments) is head and shoulders above Canadian service. In my experience, anyway.